Image by DuBoix
Whether you make use of these ideas on May 25th – the official day for celebrating Africa – or at any other time during the year, your students can learn about the cultures, geography and other facts about Africa, while having fun in the process.
The African continent is populated by over fifty countries, boasts more than 1500 languages and is rich in history. Africa is the world’s second largest continent. As a topic of special study, it offers a huge amount to grip the interest of children.
The following ideas can be especially useful when a teacher needs to plug up gaps in the planning schedule. These concepts can turn boring days into special days!
Fact Finding Scavenger Hunt
1) Divide your class into pairs or teams and allow them access to the internet.
2) Set a time for finding ten of their favorite facts to present about Africa.
3) Ask each group to present their facts, requesting that each child take part in the presentation. All of the facts should be added to an “Africa facts” board. As the children advance their learning through different lessons, they should continue to add facts to the board.
As an additional challenge for older groups, this activity can be scored to encourage children to find lesser-known facts. A point is gained for every original fact contributed to the Scavenger Hunt, while for every duplicated fact a point is lost.
Explore & Discover
Before beginning this exercise, invite your group to suggest words which they associate with Africa. Write them up so that they’re visible.
1) Divide your group into pairs or teams, each with access to the internet and an atlas.
2) Give each group an African country and invite them to find and draw the national flag. Ask them to find out which languages are spoken in that country, whether there are any geographical landmarks, what the landscape is like, what the capital city is called, how many people live there and what kinds of jobs they do.
3) Ask each team to feed back and facilitate a group discussion on the different types of industry, population density, landscape etc.
4) Ask your group whether they would like to add any more words associated with Africa to the board. Were there any surprises?
1) Give a little background to World Africa Day as a celebration of a united Africa and the organizations which work together to tackle problems of climate change and poverty across the continent.
2) Ask the group to draw the flag of an African country and string them together to make flag bunting for the classroom.
3) Ask each pupil to say which country their flag is from, three facts they have learned and identify where it is on the map.
Make African Trading Beads
Trading beads were used across Africa and have a colorful history as currency and adornments. They were made and used across the shipping routes connecting Europe, Africa and the West Indies. Invite pupils to make paper replicas using brightly colored construction paper.
1) Cut long, thin triangles from the paper and use colored pens, paints or felt tips to add decoration to the triangles.
2) Starting with the widest end of the triangle, roll your paper tightly around a cocktail stick until you have a bead shape. Glue the point of the triangle to the bead to hold it in place.
3) Remove the cocktail stick and string the beads together using string, thong or colored wool.
4) A discussion of different trading habits in the past and today can follow, introducing World Fair Trade Day as an inspiration for further activities.
Deliver an African Themed Evening
A great project for a year six group, this activity can also be simplified to offer an assembly presentation or lunchtime exhibition.
Using the themes covered during different lessons, children are encouraged to work together to offer an African themed event for pupils, teachers or parents. One group may focus on African instruments and creating a playlist of music. Another might create a menu of African foods, perhaps even producing a few samples. Performances of tribal songs, celebration dances, prayers or folktales create an evening of celebration and fun.
Don’t stop with Africa, though. Fill out your spring calendar and your yearly calendar with other special days. From International Children’s Book Day to International Human Rights Day, there is a wealth of learning and fun to be had when you adapt these and similar activities to engage your pupils in active research and discussion.
Do you have any African activities to share? From folktales to environmental exercises, share them with the class!
Claire Hovey is a writer with a love of history, ancient languages and a special interest in Africa. She has a degree in Egyptology.